This week in Game of Game of Thrones, your Thronesmaster had to Google “knuckle massages” and “carpal-tunnel risk factors.” What I’m saying is, too much is happening too quickly on this show, and I can barely write it all down without injuring myself. So let’s get right to it, and yes, I would love it if you would tweet any and all home remedies for joint swelling to @verge.
Season 7, episode 5, “Eastwatch,” has a sad, soggy opening scene: Jaime’s closest personal friend berates him while he doggie-paddles around a river in 80 pounds of armor. Bronn not-so-subtly suggests that Jaime is too stupid to live, but he also owes Bronn too much real estate to die right now. (+5 to Bronn for “You saw the dragon between you and her… and?”) The 2017 equivalent of this, I guess, would be dragging a drunk, topless friend off a waterslide and shouting that you’re only saving them from themselves so they can complete your Venmo requests.
Unfortunately, this is merely a nihilism aperitif, followed quickly by Daenerys giving an incoherent speech to the remaining Lannister soldiers. It’s cobbled together from her greatest hits, including a little bit of season 5’s “break the wheel” speech and season 6’s “We will leave the world a better place than we found it,” which honestly rings a little hollow when the choices she’s presenting are “Pledge your life to me, or be roasted alive by the dragon sitting right here, being super-loud.”
Most of the soldiers — who, as you’ll recall, are just random citizens who probably have no knowledge of any of the political machinations of Westeros — go right ahead and bend the knee, but Sam’s unpleasant father Randyll and okay-but-potentially-fratty brother Dickon refuse.
Tyrion begs Daenerys not to start beheading the lords of every major political family in the country, a grave rhetorical error that only sets her up perfectly for the +10 chilling line: “I’m not beheading anyone.” Whereupon, +50 to the Dragons, +50 to Randyll for dying memorably, and +50 to Dickon for also dying memorably, for no reason, because Daenerys did not even know who he was until he awkwardly shrieked it at her. At this point, we are being asked to worry that Daenerys is just as crazy as her father, whose defining character trait was being crazy. I’m not a psychologist, but I’m done adjusting my standards for these people just because they’re all objectively beautiful and wear awesome outfits. Yes, if you are willing to burn two guys to a crisp in the full view of like 70 other people, you’re out of control and don’t need any more responsibilities.
Down in King’s Landing, Jaime comes back from a short trip to war and catches Cersei up on a lot: Olenna murdered Joffrey, the Dothraki are much better at cutting through armor than one might guess, and dragons are extremely scary IRL. He doesn’t think they can beat Daenerys, but what he’s forgetting is that Cersei does not care: “We fight and die or we submit and die. I know my choice. A soldier should know his.” +10 to Cersei, outwardly for this line, but in my heart, it’s for the outfit. She is the only person moving this civilization into the future, no matter what else you want to say about her.
On Dragonstone, as a special treat to me, director Matt Shakman gives us five minutes of Daenerys making eyes at Jon Snow while he pets Drogon’s face. She doesn’t mention to her crush that she just incinerated a father-son duo in a nearly shot-for-shot remake of the execution of Rickard and Brandon Stark, but she does tell him, with her eyes, “Oh heyyyy boy.” Again I ask, when will these two kiss already?
But against all odds, Daenerys is only the second most thirsty-looking blonde in this scene. Right in the middle of some devastating tension between Dany’s eyeballs and Jon’s jawline, Jorah shows up in an elegant silk cape to say that he’s cured, he’s back in Daenerys’ service (+25), and he’s still totally obsessed with her. (Imagine if your only option for impressing your crush was changing the fabric of your cape.) I don’t care about Jorah’s love feelings, but here is a subtle and critically important Jon forehead-tendon moment that I took the time to GIF:
Yes, The Verge is a full-time shipping blog now, and I dare you to do something about it. Unless you’re my boss — or Bran, who gets +50 magic points for warging into a raven and seeing the Night King’s baby blues moving ever closer to the Wall — you’re powerless. And if you’re my boss, well, please accept my half-apology for continually taunting the readers of this column. I’m out of control, and I don’t need any more responsibilities!
Anyway, Bran sends a raven to the Citadel, where a roomful of old white guys agree they could write to every army in Westeros and solve the White Walker problem right this second, but they don’t particularly want to, because the whole thing might be a prank. This is the point in the latest season of HBO’s Girls where idealist and intellectual Samwell Tarly becomes completely disillusioned with the politics of academia, yells at everyone in the room, and stomps out. You know, sometimes I think this is just a show about young men having uninteresting formative experiences. At other times, I think it’s about reminding me of political realities I’d rather not think about on a Sunday night.
At other other times, like when Tyrion and Varys are dishing about their unhinged boss over a few glasses of wine (+5 each), I think it’s a show about getting drunk and making terrible plans, and that’s why I keep watching it. After Varys gives a long, melodramatic speech about how he and Tyrion are both complicit in whatever fire-murders Daenerys commits, he whips out Bran’s letter to Jon. The White Walker problem, according to the letter, is even more urgent than it was last week or the week before, when Jon was already running around trying to convince everyone that it was as urgent as it could possibly be. He needs to recalibrate his DEFCON protocol. In the meantime, Tyrion has a plan: Jorah and Jon will, I am not kidding, go get a White Walker or wight and bring it to King’s Landing to show to Cersei as proof that she should just lay off and let them deal with the Could Not Possibly Be More Urgent Until It’s A Little More Urgent Next Week zombie issue. Inhibitions lowered, Varys shoots the plan out of the sky (+5), saying, “Anything you bring back will be useless unless Cersei grants us an audience and somehow decides not to murder us.”
So Davos, the Onion Knight, the former smuggler who hasn’t talked about his missing smuggler fingers in a few episodes, is going to smuggle Tyrion into the city for a meeting with Jaime first. I love this Ocean’s Eleven plan! But if I had to pick out a single early-2000’s Claire’s accessory to indicate how logical, curated, and cost-effective this show’s various plots have become, it would be the broach Daenerys is wearing when she finds out Jon Snow is leaving her alone on this island to not get kissed by him.
Up in Winterfell, there is only more anxiety-inducing drama. Sansa calls a meeting of the Northern lords where she doesn’t talk about anything, and instead just allows everyone to yell general thoughts about how Jon abandoned them and how she should be in charge forever. Arya watches this and then gives her a lot of crap about how she’s sleeping in their parents’ bedroom (+10 for “You always liked nice things”) and secretly wants to be queen (+10 for “You’re thinking it right now”). Game of Thrones often presents any acquisition of skill as a personality trade-off: Bran can see all of history and now he has no empathy, Arya is an awesome assassin and now she has no ability to trust her loved ones. So, in my opinion, it’s odd that anyone is still questioning Sansa when she is the only person who has managed to acquire political savvy, military know-how, and incredible sartorial instincts without losing her soul. Arya, please shut up and mind your own business. You’re 14.
Back in King’s Landing, Bronn tricks Jaime into meeting with Tyrion, and they have a sort of boring conversation about whether Tyrion murdering their father Tywin was warranted. Then Cersei and Jaime have a second, more boring conversation about whether she should meet with Daenerys to talk about peace, love, and White Walkers. The votes are: Jaime “yea,” Cersei “nay.” So it’s a no. What a surprise. More importantly, this is a good opportunity for her to tell him that she is pregnant. We’re going to go with +15 each for the tiny incest baby, even though I sort of think this is a lie and a ruthless emotional manipulation likely to end in disaster.
That’s a bummer, but I’m excited to describe the bonkers B-plot unfurling simultaneously in King’s Landing. Here we go: Davos goes to find Robert Baratheon’s bastard son Gendry, who we haven’t seen since he floated away in a rowboat in season 3. Apparently he was just hanging out, making armor. Okay! Davos tells Gendry, who looks terrible and has a buzzcut now, “Nothing fucks you harder than time.” Gross, but +5. The thrill of the smuggle makes Davos act about 12 years old, and in the space of five minutes, he also gives Gendry the hilarious fake name “Clovis,” delivers an improvised and revolting monologue about the aphrodisiac properties of fermented crab (+5 for a chainmail joke I won’t repeat), and does a spot-on impression of my great aunt, mumbling “Nobody mind me. All I’ve ever done is live to a ripe old age.” (+5) Man, give this guy another +5 for whatever I missed, because he was on fire.
And +20 to Gendry for returning in style and smashing two Gold Cloaks’ heads with a sledgehammer. He’s so excited to be included in the weekly spectacle of Game of Thrones again after four years of being left out — he’s going absolutely wild. This is fun, but not quite motivation enough for me to give points to Gendry or Jon for meeting and bonding over recollections of the dead dynamic duo Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon. I am really tired of watching boys become friends for vague, whimsical reasons.
To wrap up the plot-onslaught, we get back-to-back textbook examples of what AP English teachers call dramatic irony. First, Gilly reads aloud to Sam from one of the old journals the Archmaester is forcing him to archive. She’s cheerfully struggling through a story about how Prince Rhaegar was given an annulment and then remarried to someone (wink!) in a secret ceremony in Dorne, while Sam is throwing a tantrum about how no one is letting him read any of the important books full of good secrets. Then he quits college. Did you yell at your TV? I didn’t, but only out of deference to my cat Ghost, who finds it painful to acknowledge this program ever since his namesake was entirely written out of it. Good lord, Sam.
Meanwhile, in Winterfell, Littlefinger stages fishy-looking conversations with Alys Karstark, Robett Glover, and Yohn Royce. He easily tricks Arya into thinking he’s up to something, leading her to a copy of an old letter in which Sansa tells Robb that Ned is guilty of treason and begs him to surrender to the Lannisters. If Arya had a fully developed brain, she would realize that Sansa wrote this under coercion, but again, she’s 14. Her teenage bullshit is going to get everyone in some serious trouble.
The final scene of this episode is a great reminder that Game of Thrones has been going on forever and involves so many interlocking friend groups, unlikely pairings, and petty grudges that there’s no way you can possibly keep track of them in your one human brain. At the Wall, Jon recognizes The Hound from seeing him at Winterfell one time, seven years ago. Jorah recognizes Thoros. Gendry recognizes Beric and Thoros, whom he does not like. Tormund turns to Jorah like “You’re a Mormont?” The Hound gets +5 for interrupting Beric Dondarrion’s speech about fate and friendship with “For fuck’s sake, will you shut your hole?” and whoever had the idea for this meet-up gets a personal letter from me, accompanied by an Edible Arrangement. Please DM.
What a hilarious team of total randos, and what a way to sell me again on the dragon show. Here’s +5 to Tormund for asking which queen they need to prove the existence of White Walkers to (“The one with dragons or the one who fucks her brother?”), and +5 to Thoros for a hearty swig of what I hope was a protein shake, as it’s going to be rough from here on out. Someone could send one of Daenerys’ dragons to kill all the White Walkers in about 10 minutes, but let’s collaborate to fetch a zombie instead. I don’t care about HBO’s financial obligation to drag the most improbably popular fantasy program in history out for as long as possible, I just love a ragtag crew.
The magic of Game of Thrones is that, while watching it, I regularly spend 55 minutes thinking, “What has happened? This is a complete mess and disaster,” and then five thinking, “This has been worth it. I am amped up and will never die.” And then I do it all again the next week. At least for the next two weeks. After that, well… see you in 2018, or maybe 2019.
To the Old Gods and the New, please protect our sweet boys.
THE VERGE FANTASY LEAGUE STANDINGS
1. MICHAEL ZELENKO, 515 POINTS
Top scorer: Arya, 20
Special team: The Royal Army, 0
2. KWAME OPAM, 425 POINTS
Top scorer: Daenerys Targaryen, 10
Special team: The Dothraki, 0
3. ANDY HAWKINS, 285 POINTS
Top scorer: N/A
Special team: The Unsullied, 0
4. TASHA ROBINSON, 285 POINTS
Top scorer: Jaime Lannister, 15
Special team: The White Walkers, 0
5. SARAH SMITHERS, 255 POINTS
Top scorer: Varys, 10
Special team: Dragons, 50
6. CHAIM GARTENBERG, 240 POINTS
Top scorer: Randyll Tarly, 50
Special team: The Wights, 0
7. T.C. SOTTEK, 225 POINTS
Top scorer: N/A
Special team: Wildlings, 0
9. LOREN GRUSH, 205 POINTS
Top scorer: Bran Stark, 50
Special team: Brotherhood without Banners, 0
8. LIZ LOPATTO, 155 POINTS
Top scorer: Davos Seaworth, 20
Special team: The Lord of Light, 0
10. BRYAN BISHOP, 25 POINTS
Top scorer: N/A
Special team: The Night’s Watch, 0